Bosnian artist Ailin Karić Plakalo has a passion for Islamic geometry, mandalas and illumination. We talk to Ailin about her journey as an artist specialising in traditional artforms.
Your works are inspired by Islamic geometry, mandalas and illumination. What made you develop an interest in these artistic traditions?
Since childhood I loved art and drawing, in elementary school I have always drawn geometric shapes and rooms where the carpet was always full of details. I’ve always been creative but I never knew what and how to draw, so I was always sure I could draw, but I didn’t know what. 2015 was the year I started drawing mandalas, and after a few years, when I had perfected mandala drawing while also developing a unique style that many recognize my mandalas by, I decided I needed a slightly bigger challenge. So I started studying and practicing Islamic illumination and sometimes Islamic geometry. Islamic illumination, Islamic geometry and Islamic art in general is complex. I think I can spend my whole life studying this field, but the harmony, the beauty of patterns, designs and the feeling that these arts evoke in me are the reasons why I started with Islamic art.
How did you train to become an artist specializing in these traditional artforms?
I can say that I am everything, but not a classical artist who have read a lot of books about Islamic art, studied patterns directly from buildings, and learned from top teachers of Islamic art. My "specialization" comes down to being able to analyze things well by myself and to know the path of how to draw something, probably my path is not right for many professionals, but for me it is the only way and I enjoy learning everything by myself. I'm not a person of a lot of sketching and planning in advance, although it might be useful sometimes, but when I learn, I learn while creating my artworks. My clients often give me commissions that are outside my “drawing comfort zone”. But that is what brought me to this level where I am now. With each new work I increase my skills, learn and get inspiration for new things.
Where do you find inspiration for your colour compositions?
I like to experiment a lot with colors. And that usually goes without some big plans. In the process of creating a new piece, as soon as I have a clear design on the paper, I try to see what color that design looks like to me. It sounds ridiculous, but it often happens that while working on a piece, I dream about how I draw it and what colors I use for it. I will give an example related to the work named “Closer to me”. It’s one of my first Islamic illumination drawings on a canvas. In the early beginning I imagined the design in some beige and brown colors, and maybe some pink for the pop effect. However, when I drew the design on canvas, I could clearly see that this design is in red color, and that night I dreamed about the piece and I was painting it in red, so I followed my imagination and the dream and used Scarlet red as the main color. However, for everyone who knows me, the color combination was a shock, because everyone knows that I do not like red at all, and that I don’t like to accept orders when the color combination should be with red. So, probably I would say that I choose my color combinations based on my intuition. But I rarely choose the combination, because when it comes to orders, my clients decide what color combination they want, but they are mostly some cool color combinations. My favorite combinations are with turquoise, I always add it whenever it is possible.
What is your favourite work you have created to date?
“Closer to me” and “Al-Aqsa”
You have developed a contemporary twist on this traditional skill, how did you develop a distinct style?
I am a person who loves challenges in the sense of learning something new and trying to do the same in my style. I find it difficult to follow rules, and the result is that I learn everything myself and understand art in my own special way. This is good on the one hand, but not on the other because I don't have the patience for courses, everything is going too slowly for me and I want to learn everything as soon as possible. However, I decided to dedicate myself to Islamic art, Islamic illumination, Islamic geometry and Islamic architecture. And in addition, I will start studying that field properly, but I will stick to adding my style to some classic things.
Is there a spiritual element to your work?
Definitely. I don't think I would enjoy what I'm doing without that element. In addition to the fact that art fascinates me, one of the important factors why I draw is the feeling of fulfilment that I feel when drawing. And this is not the case with every art style. For a while I was lost and I enrolled in a mastery program to learn to draw with oil paints various things, portraits, animals, objects, or anything other than mandalas or Islamic art. At the beginning it was interesting because I realized that I could draw whatever I want, but with each new assignment I felt less and less willing to draw, I wanted to finish the drawing as soon as possible and to leave the painting somewhere on the side. And in the end I would stare at the painting and think that I didn't enjoy it at all while I was drawing it. I wanted to go away from that feeling of emptiness after drawing, and I started again with Islamic illumination, and I realized that this is it, Islamic art is for me and what I want to dedicate myself to, and what I enjoy the most.
What are your hopes and aspirations as an artist?
My hopes as an artist are that, as with mandalas, I want to develop a recognizable style in Islamic art. To personally visit the buildings of Islamic art and to research all the patterns and make my own references, and on that basis to create some impressive works of art. In addition to some of my achievements, I want to help others find their style and introduce them to Islamic art. So in addition to the mandala course, I am planning more online courses to create and transfer knowledge.
What advice would you give to an artist at the start of their journey?
Well my advice would be to draw what fulfills them, not to blindly follow some trends and something that sells the most. Because enjoying and feeling free and fulfilled at the same time is far more important than profit. And when we do something from the heart, and with pleasure, people will notice that passion and will want to buy a work from that artist. Of course, I would recommend to seek help from other artists, not to be like me to learn everything on their own, because it is a much longer and harder journey. I would like to add that all those who are considering to draw, but are afraid of mistakes and to make something wrong, to be brave and to know that there are no mistakes in art, but only the possibility of progress. Because with every mistake we make, we are actually learning and the next time we can make it better.
What do you think the future of Islamic art looks like and how do you think we can continue to keep artistic traditions alive?
I can only say from my experience and my conversations with my followers that Islamic art is very popular, and with each new work of Islamic art, the curiosity and desire to learn Islamic art increases in people. Like Islamic illumination, Islamic geometries, Arabic calligraphy etc. So I think that I personally should continue on this path and that I should strive to pass this knowledge on, so that this tradition will remain alive for many years to come.
For more information follow Ailin Karić Plakalo on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/mandalabyailin/?hl=en
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